The Department of Labor and Employment apologized for the delay in the repatriation of the more than 270 remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia, after only 49 bodies of the OFWs arrived in the country. Almost half of them died of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
“We sincerely apologize for the much-delayed homecoming owing to the lockdowns and strenuous processes that we have to undergo for their return. The added anxiety to the families caused by the suspended homeward journey is certainly undeserved,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement.
He said of the 49 OFWs repatriated, 32 were from Dammam, while 17 were from Riyadh.
Bello said another batch of bodies of OFWs would be flown from Saudi Arabia by next week.
He said the government of President Duterte will continue to fly home all the dead, and if need be, not only from the Middle East but also from all over the world.
The Labor chief also thanked the collaborative efforts of the various agencies which include the DFA, DOH and the Bureau of Quarantine, DILG, DND, DOTr, MIAA, the Bureau of Customs, the POEA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
“As we grieve with the families left behind by all our OFW heroes, including those already buried overseas and those flown home ahead, we give our highest respects and gratitude for their heroic sacrifices for the country,” Bello said.
The remains of those who died of Covid-19 would be cremated immediately, while the kin of those who died of natural causes have the option to bury them or have them cremated.
The families of the 274 OFWs would receive bereavement benefits and insurance.
According to DOLE data, 129 of the 274 OFWs died of Covid-19 and 145 died of natural causes.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights urged the national and local government to protect the human rights of every one in their implementation of the quarantine measures.
In a statement, lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia raised concern over an incident when a village official recently forced a resident in Manila to run naked in public as punishment for violating curfew restrictions.
In a television interview, Barangay councilor Alberto Valenzona of Barangay 108, Zone 9 in Tondo, Manila admitted he himself posted the naked picture of the curfew violator on social media, whom he accused of being a drug dependent.
CHR has stepped into the matter to investigate the incident, De Guia said.
“The commission is strongly reminding that there is no suspension of human rights amid a national health emergency,” she said.
“We all know that those violations (of human rights) must be held accountable,” she added.
She said such must be liable for violation of Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act.
“We have too many good examples of different local government units that have been implementing humane treatment for violations (of the quarantine protocols), such as video showing of the ill effects of COVID-19 so that the people would understand better the importance of health safety protocols, like the wearing of a face mask, physical distancing and quarantine, among others,” she said.
She added that the lack of adequate knowledge on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic may be one of the possible reasons why there are violations of the quarantine measures.